Ann Arbor OKs COW for Football Games

Temporary Verizon cell tower to be set on Golf & Outing Club land

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Aug. 3, 2011): On the day after city council primary elections, the planning commission had a light agenda, which featured only two action items.

View from Tower

View from the planned location of the "cell on wheels" – the northeast corner of the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club parking lot – looking north toward the football stadium. (Photos by the writer.)

First, the commission approved a site plan by Verizon for a temporary cellular tower to be set up on the property of the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club, near Main and Stadium. The cell on wheels (COW) will boost service during the University of Michigan home football games.

Second, the commission approved a minor revision to its bylaws. Instead of reviewing its work plan in December, the work plan review will come in May each year.

The commission also got an update from its city council representative, and a heads-up on future issues through an announcement of public hearings.

The hearings include one on zoning and annexation into the city of property on South State Street where Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky has opened for business.

Verizon COW

City planner Matt Kowalski described the request from Verizon, which was followed by a public hearing, after which the commission deliberated on the proposal.

Verizon COW: Background

Kowalski explained that Verizon is seeking approval of a temporary wireless tower – a “cell on wheels” or COW – directly across from the University of Michigan football stadium. The tower would stand 80 feet tall and would be in operation from Aug. 15 to Dec 15. Its purpose is to boost service during home football games at Michigan Stadium.

The tower would be located in the northwest corner of an existing parking lot at the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club and would take up two parking spaces. There would be a tower plus a shed for mechanical equipment. An emergency generator would also be on site. It’s not designed for co-location, because it’s designed to be temporary, Kowalski explained. But the application was being reviewed using the same criteria as a permanent facility would be, he said. It will need building permits and will be reviewed by building officials to make sure it’s structurally secure.

The electrical system will hook into the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club system, he said – the generator is just for emergencies.

He noted that last year, there was a tower installed on the opposite side of the street.

Verizon COW: Public Hearing

Only one person appeared to speak at the public hearing – Jonathan Crane, an attorney and engineer, on behalf of Verizon Wireless. He told the commission he was there to answer any questions and to encourage the commission to approve the site plan. He stressed that it will be a mono-pole with no ability to co-locate additional towers.

Verizon COW: Commission Deliberations

Bonnie Bona asked about the two parking spaces. Kowalski clarified that the tower would actually only take 1.5 spaces, but it was counted as two, because access to the second space would be tight. Bona drew out the fact that the parking spaces in question are not required spaces.

Bona also noted that the tower will be taken down on Dec. 15 – would Verizon want to set up the tower again next year? Kowalski said that Verizon hoped not to need the additional service boost because it anticipated some stadium improvements. Crane indicated that Verizon is in the process of upgrading service on the whole UM campus. Verizon forecasts that it won’t need the temporary tower next year. But 110,000 people using cellular devices at Michigan Stadium, many of them sending pictures (which are higher bandwidth) creates a lot of demand, he said. Bona allowed that the more service that’s offered, the more people use it.

Kirk Westphal asked about the possibility that noise could be an issue in the event that the emergency generators would run. Kowalski explained that the generators would strictly be for an emergency, if the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club’s power was not available, and then only during football games. The sound stats on the emergency power are: 65 decibles measured 23 feet from the center of the generator.

Crane explained that the tower would be powered up only during football games, including a couple of hours before and after the game. Having emergency backup is part of a cellular carrier’s civil defense obligation, he said.

Outcome: The commission unanimously approved the site plan for the Verizon COW after amending the approval to include the dates Aug. 15-Dec. 15. The decision does not require subsequent approval by the city council.


The commission approved its bylaws with little discussion. Planning commission chair Eric Mahler noted that the revision was that instead of reviewing its work plan in December, the work plan review will come in May each year. [.pdf of planning commission bylaws]

Outcome: The commission unanimously approved the revision to its bylaws.


Reporting to his fellow planning commissioners with an update on city council activities was Tony Derezinski, who represents Ward 2 on the city council. He highlighted two items.

Update from City Council: City Admin Hire

Derezinski reported that the city council had hired Steve Powers as its new city administrator.

Matt Kowalski Adenekan

Before the meeting, Ann Arbor city planner Matt Kowalski exchanges business cards with Eleanore Adenekan, the planning commission's newest member.

He told the commission that Powers was currently county administrator for Marquette County, Michigan. The city had received 61 applications, he said, and those had been narrowed down to about 10 by the city’s consultant and further down to 3. One of those finalists had subsequently dropped out.

Both of the two finalists could do the job, Derezinski felt, but the nod went to Powers based on his familiarity with Michigan statutory law and his training as a city administrator. The city came up with a contract, which Powers has accepted, Derezinski said. He’ll start in the middle of September.

Update from City Council: City Elections

Derezinski also reported that all three incumbents had won their Democratic Party primaries. Only two of those are challenged in general elections, Derezinski noted, but there was a rumor that an independent would stand for the general election, but that was not yet certain.

[In fact, Jane Lumm did submit nominating petitions for Ward 2 as a candidate not affiliated with any party. She'll face incumbent Stephen Rapundalo, who won his Democratic primary. In Ward 1, only one name will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot – that of incumbent Sabra Briere, who did not have a contested Democratic primary. In Ward 3, the winner of the Democratic primary, incumbent Stephen Kunselman, will face Republican David Parker. In Ward 4, incumbent Democrat Marcia Higgins will face Republican Eric Scheie. And in Ward 5, the winner of the Democratic primary, incumbent Mike Anglin, will face Republican Stuart Berry.]

Update from Planning Commissioners: Pedestrians

Erica Briggs alerted her fellow commissioners to the fact that the city of Ann Arbor will begin enforcing a change in the city code made around a year ago: Motorists are now required to stop and yield to pedestrians who are in or approaching crosswalks not otherwise equipped with traffic signals.

Public Hearing Notice

Public hearings are noticed to the public through multiple mechanisms, including physical posting at the site that is subject of the public hearing. This is the posting for the Verizon COW, which is affixed to a streetlight post along Stadium Boulevard near the entrance to the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club.

The city has mounted a publicity campaign in advance of police enforcement – which will start in September with warnings and in October with ticketing. Tony Derezinski noted that he’d received something in the mail – he assumed it was part of a mass mailing.

Public Hearings Scheduled

Among the public hearings scheduled for Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. is one for the annexation and zoning of a parcel on South State just south of the Produce Station, where Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky has opened for business. The city council gave authorization for a sanitary sewer hookup for the property at its July 18 meeting.

Present: Bonnie Bona, Erica Briggs, Eleanore Adenekan, Diane Giannola, Eric Mahler, Evan Pratt, Kirk Westphal, Wendy Woods, Tony Derezinski.

Next regular meeting: The planning commission next meets on Tuesday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]

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